By Christoph Irmscher
Charismatic and debatable, Louis Agassiz is our least recognized revolutionary—some fifty years after American independence, he grew to become a founder of American technological know-how.
One hundred and seventy-five years in the past, a Swiss immigrant took the US through typhoon, launching American technological know-how as we all know it. The irrepressible Louis Agassiz, mythical at a tender age for his paintings on mountain glaciers, concentrated his prodigious energies at the fauna of the hot international. Invited to convey a sequence of lectures in Boston, he by no means left, changing into the main well-known scientist of his time. A pioneer in box study and an obsessive collector, Agassiz enlisted the yank public in an enormous crusade to ship him traditional specimens, useless or alive, for his ingeniously conceived museum of comparative zoology. As an educator of putting up with influence, he expert a iteration of yankee scientists and technological know-how academics, women and men alike. Irmscher sheds new mild on Agassiz’s attention-grabbing partnership along with his wonderful spouse, Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, a technological know-how author in her personal correct who could move directly to turn into the 1st president of Radcliffe College.
But there’s a gloomy part to the tale. Irmscher provides unflinching proof of Agassiz’s racist impulses and exhibits how avidly americans appeared to males of technology to mediate race coverage. The book’s powerful, unique scenes contain the pitched conflict among Agassiz and his pupil Henry James Clark in addition to the cruel, frequently a laugh exchanges among Darwin and Harvard botanist Asa grey over Agassiz’s obdurate resistance to evolution.
A attention-grabbing existence tale, either inspiring and cautionary, for a person attracted to the background of yankee ideas.
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Extra info for Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science
Drawing from the scrapbook ofJames Henry Blake. Blake provides the following legend: “i. Prof. Louis Agassiz; 2. Dr. Thomas Hill; 3. Mrs. Louis Agassiz; 4. Franz Steindachner; 5. Commander Philip C. Johnson; 6. Lieut. Commander C. Kennedy; 7. Mrs. Philip C. Johnson; 8. Dr. William White; 9. J. Henry Blake; 10. Ct. L. 1, Harvard University. ” Ink drawing by Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, Elizabeth Cary Agassiz to Mary Perkins Cary, March 20, 1872. The Hassler Letters. The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Agassiz represented the union of brawn and brain, but one so precarious and fragile that disaster and dissolution always seemed imminent. It is oddly appropriate that most of Agassiz’s health woes were neurological ones that caused distress in both mind and body. Agassiz’s self-mythologizing reflects a paradigm usually associated with the artist: the notion that suffering is a pathway to creative genius and that the limitations of the body also restrict, in unacceptable ways, what an individual may be able to accomplish.
1885–1890. Unknown photographer. The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. [>]: Agassiz in the ground, 1906, Stanford, California. Undated picture postcard. Author’s collection. Introduction IN SEPTEMBER 1866, the American consul to Mauritius, fresh off the boat, paid a visit to the Boston publisher James T. Fields. He carried precious cargo with him, though it was not intended for Fields, but rather for the man known as America’s greatest naturalist, the man everyone wanted to see when they came to Cambridge: Louis Agassiz.
Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science by Christoph Irmscher